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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

A big idea for boosting our cooperative economy?

November 24, 2010
michael johnson
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A big idea for boosting our cooperative economy?

The New America Foundation (NAF) has made a large size policy proposal for basic economic development in the US.  To these untrained eyes and ears it would seem that it is offering a public home for building on and expanding our cooperative economy here in the states.   So I am passing it on to the more knowledgeable for assessment and action.

A word regarding the credibility of source.  The NAF is a Washington think tank that seems far more grounded than most.  Michael Lind is the author of Public Purpose Finance, the paper presenting the policy proposal.  He is their policy director for economic growth, which is a misleading title for him.  I have been reading him for years.  His writings on the US are kaleidoscopic in their breadth, quite informed in their depth, and comprehensive in their grasp of American history. He is a passionate working-class liberal as opposed to a liberal elite policy wonk.

From the Introduction:

President Obama has spoken of laying a new foundation for the American economy.  Part of that new foundation must be an innovative system of public purpose finance, combining new and existing economic development banks to promote innovation and growth in the areas of manufacturing, infrastructure, R&D, energy, skill development, housing and agriculture.

The core of the proposed plan is the use of "specialized public or quasi-public credit institutions to carry out public purposes such as lending to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and directing credit to areas of the economy that are important for overall growth but unable to attract adequate private capital."

Here is the overview of the system:

We propose a new American public purpose finance system centered on seven economic development banks.  Each federally-chartered development bank would be a decentralized system of several regional development banks.  Each of the member banks would be organized as a cooperative owned by the member banks and other lending institutions in its assigned region of the United States.  Each development bank system as a whole would be authorized to issue its own tax-favored agency bonds to promote its particular mission.

The seven economic development banks of the proposed public purpose finance system include two which already exist, the Federal Home Loan Bank System and the Federal Farm Credit System, and five proposed new credit systems:

  • The Federal Home Loan Bank System (FHLB)
  • The Federal Farm Credit System (FFCS)
  • The Federal Manufacturing Credit System (FMCS)
  • The Federal Infrastructure Credit System (FICS)
  • The Federal R&D Credit System (FRDCS)
  • The Federal Energy Development Credit System (FEDCS)
  • The Federal Skill Development Credit System (FSDCS)

I hope this is as promising an idea as it seems to me.  If it is, I hope we have some way of connecting Lind and the NAF.

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